If the White House bowling alley were a person, it would now qualify for full Social Security benefits.
Opened 65 years ago today, the Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley was constructed in the basement of the White House’s West Wing and then moved to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in 1955.
While more than 1,000 visitors frequent the lanes each year, bowling buffs should not expect to waltz right in.
And that tends to be true of the entire Washington, D.C., bowling scene.
If you’re looking to relieve stress by knocking over some pins and throwing back a few beers, you’ll be hard pressed to find relief in the District.
While there are several bowling establishments in suburban Maryland and Virginia, the District sports only three working alleys — two of which are not open to the general public.
For Capitol keglers, here is a quick rundown of Washington’s local lanes.
Harry S. Truman Bowling Alley
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Distance from Capitol Hill: 3.5 miles
The infamous White House bowling lanes are well-known among D.C. political types, but getting a lane on the presidential alley is not easy.
Bowlers must be invited by White House staff. After a Secret Service background check, bowlers must pass through several security checkpoints and an underground basement.
With its own selection of balls and shoes, pin patrons can enjoy a personal flat-screen television and mini-fridge for beverages. Bowlers accustomed to automatic scoring will need to brush up on their math: The White House alley requires you to keep score the old-fashioned way.
Bolling Air Force Base
315 McChord St. SW
Distance From Capitol Hill: 4.4 miles
For serious bowlers seeking to satisfy their pin pallet, D.C.’s Potomac Lanes is the best bet. Located at Bolling Air Force Base, the 30-lane alley is typically reserved for active or retired military personnel and their dependents.
While civilian bowlers are welcome to join one or more of the daily bowling leagues, they must first express interest to the alley manager and complete a clearance form at the base’s visitor center.
The lanes were reopened in September after four months of remodeling. The alley closed its classic bowling alley bar, turning it into a game room and pro shop.
Manager Carl Gittings said the renovations have made the lanes more family-oriented.
“We wanted the place to be inviting,” Gittings said. “Where people could feel comfortable walking in to bowl or to get something to eat.”
The alley also revamped its restaurant menu, opting for an Italian theme.